Kachumbari – Tomato, Onion, and Chilli Salad

Kachumbari is a fresh tomato and onion salad dish that is popular in the cuisines of the African Great Lakes region. It is an uncooked salad dish consisting of chopped tomatoes, onions, and chilli peppers (and salt to taste). Variations of Kachumbari can be found in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and in central African countries of Malawi and Congo. In Latin America, it is a variation of pico de gallo, or salsa fresca.

The Swahili word Kachumbari originated from the word Koshumbri or “Kachumber” in Sanskrit from India.


Kachumbari is used like a salad side dish for a main meal.

In Kenya, it is used as a condiment served with pilau (pilaf), mukimo, or a meal of nyama choma (roasted meat) and ugali. In Tanzania, it is eaten with rice pilau or biryani. In Malawi, it is usually eaten on its own like any other salad dish while in Uganda it is normally eaten with nyama choma.


Other ingredients like lime or lemon juice, fresh coriander (cilantro or dhania), parsley, avocado or cucumber, and in some cases gin or vodka, can also be added. Some recipe variations also call for Habañero chilli peppers or Scotch Bonnet peppers, with a touch of ground cayenne pepper.

Kachumbari is popular throughout the African Great Lakes region and can be eaten with African Pilaf rice and African Biryani.

  • In some countries in the region, like Uganda and Rwanda, it is known as Kachumbari.
  • In Malawi (central/southern Africa), the salsa sauce is called ‘Sumu’ or ‘Shum’ or simply ‘tomato and onion salad’.
  • In the eastern (Swahili-speaking) Congo (central Africa) it is known as Kachumbari.

Kachumbari Recipe

Kachumbari - Tomato, Onion, and Chilli Salad
  • 1 large red onion, chopped finely
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 tomatoes, chopped finely
  • 1 - 2 red chillies, chopped very finely
  • ¼ - ½ cup fresh coriander leaves, chopped very finely
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Lime wedges to serve (optional)
  1. Peel and chop the onion finely.
  2. Place the chopped onion in a small bowl and cover with water. Add 2 teaspoons salt and stir lightly. Allow to soak for up to 30 minutes. (omit this step if you want to have a crisper, bitier onion flavour)
  3. Chop the tomatoes and coriander leaves very finely. Cut the chillies in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and the membranes.
  4. Place the chopped onion in a sieve. Shake the sieve a little to remove water. Allow to drain for 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chopped and drained onions, chilli, coriander leaves, and tomatoes into a large bowl.
  6. Squeeze over the juice of 1 lime and stir gently
  7. Slice another lime into wedges and serve with the salad, if desired.
In some parts of Africa the salad is served with the vegetables very thinly sliced instead of chopped.

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